Parents gathered in the cafeteria at the Sustainability Academy Monday night, patiently waiting to find out how effective the English Language Learner program has been in their children's classroom, and how the Burlington School District plans to make it better.
Linda Walsleben is the director for the English Language Learner Program and said, "Teachers are teaching English as a second language or English as an additional language and students have to learn English as well as content in our schools so it's a big challenge for everyone."
The New England Equity Assistance Center observed 40 classrooms, grades 6-12, and shared what they say will help improve a program that could be doing more to help students from other countries succeed. "We needed to improve the supports for students with interrupted and informal education," says Walsleben, "So that was one of the recommendations, and to be sure that we have a well-articulated and designed program across the board."
The program will provide professional development for teachers and guidance counselors to help them create new curriculum specifically targeted toward ELL students and their needs. It will also explore new ways for teachers to work together to meet shared goals and improve community and student support. A special program is also in the works to help new ELL middle and high school students transition into the district's schools.
Dilli Ran Daxal says his son faces problems in the classroom, and hopes changes to the program can help. "What I feel is he is still hesitant to talk and express feelings in front of people so that really concerns me," he explained.
Bisharo Kasin is an interpreter for families from Somalia and says they would like to see more preparation for college, "When they are graduating they have to go to adult learning program before they can attend college. We are hoping the new program will change."
The meeting not only presented changes, it also reassured many parents that their children would be given the tools they need to succeed. "They like the new program that's designed for newcomers," said Kasin. "That's going to be designed for newcomers and also they like professional development to be mandatory for all the staff so they will be able to help their students better."
Changes to the ELL program will take some time, but parents say they look forward to students receiving more support in the classroom and in the community.